Long Loves in a Small Coastal Town: A Review of In West Mills

De’Shawn Charles Winslow’s debut novel begins with an arresting scene. Pratt Shepherd is in the middle of a fight with his free-spirited girlfriend in a small, coastal North Carolina town on the eve of World War 2. However, Azalea ‘Knot’ Centre, a sometime teacher at the local school for African-American children, is nobody’s possession. When […]

Who’s Going to Make the Case for America? (I Mean, Along with Jill Lepore)

Late in her brief but thought-provoking new book, historian Jill Lepore gets down to why she would write something titled This America: The Case for the Nation: “In American history, liberals have failed, time and again, to defeat illiberalism except by making appeals to national aims and ends…Writing national history creates plenty of problems. But […]

The Not-So-Calm Before the Storm: Jesmyn Ward’s Katrina Story

Katrina doesn’t arrive until Salvage the Bones is almost over, but the hurricane has always been coming. She broods over the whole of Jesmyn Ward’s epic 2011 novel, even when the only one who seems to know she’s on the way is Esch’s Daddy, whose preparations seem excessive to his four children living with him […]

Good God, What Happened to the Heartland?: Laughing and Lamenting with Lyz Lenz

Lyz Lenz is so funny sometimes that you can forget that she has written a hard book. As, for instance, when she’s surveying the physical layout of cookie-cutter megachurches and says that “the decor looks like a Hobby Lobby vomited all over the place.” (115) That’s the vibrant Lyz that you want giving you the […]

Stirring, Terrifying, Inspiring, Troubling—Yeah, That’s America

The first thing I note about Jill Lepore’s new one-volume history of the United States is how out of style it is. In an age of disintegrating consensus and competing truths, who would dare to attempt a comprehensive narrative of our national story? Fortunately, Jill Lepore would and the result is a book you’ll surely […]

There is Still a ‘There’ There: The Atopian Dreams of Suzannah Lessard

This review by Heartlands editor Alex Joyner originally appeared in the Eastertide 2019 print edition of the Englewood Review of Books  (now available) and is republished with permission. It’s quaint to live in a place like Parksley. Though the name refers to the original owner from whom the land for the town was bought, one Benjamin Parks, it […]

A New Style Guide for Word Lovers: Dreyer’s Droll Diversion

It sounds like faint praise to say that a book is diverting. We want our books to be gripping, engrossing, un-put-down-able. Or, if the tome in question is a reference book, we’d prefer that it be reliable, comprehensive, and comprehensible. Sorry. Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style meets none of those […]